The announcement that Manchester United had agreed a three-year contract with Ole Gunnar Solsjkaer just over a week ago was music to the ears of most fans, given the impressive turnaround in United’s season with the Norwegian in a caretaker role.
But results over the last five games – a hard-fought win over West Ham the only triumph amidst league defeats to rivals Arsenal and Wolves has highlighted how much this side still needs to improve to challenge next season.
With bookmakers like William Hill offering odds of 1/2 for Ander Herrera to join PSG this summer, United will not only need to address the gaps already present in the squad but also replace the first-team players who are leaving.
So where should United strengthen this summer?
This won’t be applicable if De Gea sticks around and signs a new deal, but bookmakers seem to think that there’s a good chance of the Spaniard heading for pastures new.
De Gea is currently as short as 4/1 with Bet Victor to leave Old Trafford for Real Madrid this summer and the bookie are offering the same price that he leaves for any French club, most notably given the interest from PSG.
The goalkeeper only has a year left on his contract and if a new deal can’t be reached, it may be the best option to sell him for a significant fee this summer rather than lose him for free next season.
So who could United sign to replace him?
Atletico Madrid’s Jan Oblak is one of the most obvious options, as is AC Milan’s Gianluigi Donnarumma, but both of those shot-stoppers would command hefty fees given their current contract situations and the reputations they have built across the continent.
Perhaps someone like Jack Butland, still only 26 and currently plying his trade in the Championship at Stoke, could be a viable left-field option, and prove to be a relative bargain?
With Herrera leaving and speculation of a move to Real Madrid for Paul Pogba, bookmakers are promoting a number of betting offers on the transfer suggesting that the Frenchman will be at PSG next season.
Defensive midfield is certainly an area that Solsjkaer will need to identify targets for, with Nemanja Matić also seemingly in decline.
Might Declan Rice, the 20-year-old West Ham starlet who has recently broken into the England ranks, be the answer? The Hammers will likely want a fee of around £50m for the transfer, but given Rice’s age and his boundless potential he is worth breaking the bank for at this stage.
If there’s one area that needed special attention regardless of whether or not top players were leaving Old Trafford this summer, it’s centre-back.
Jose Mourinho relationship with Ed Woodward’s began to break down after he was unable to secure funds for a new centre-back last summer. This season, United have been hampered by defensive errors and have conceded 43 league goals, more than any of their top six rivals and as many as relegation strugglers Newcastle.
Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Eric Bailly do not match up to the quality in the back-line of title challengers Manchester City or Liverpool and you only have to look at how Virgil Van Dijk has improved Liverpool’s fortunes to see how a big transfer fee on the right centre-back is worth it.
Having been heavily linked with the club last summer, maybe Toby Alderweireld will make the move from Tottenham this time?